Category Archives: writing

Episode 3 – David Gaffney and Clare Conlon


In this podcast, Rob talks to the nicest (and certainly most well turned out) couple in the Manchester Literature scene, David Gaffney and Sarah-Clare Conlon. They discuss Les Malheureux, Clare’s literature night Verbose, David’s latest projects (including a trio of novels… exciting!) and using music and graphic art in your on stage reading. They also get into what makes a good short story, what it’s like having your partner critique your work, and… oh yeah, coffee tables.

Listen to it immediately. And why dontcha subscribe while you’re at it? See that little musical note thingie up by my horrid face? That’s the itunes logo. CLICK IT.


At the end I talk about an article the author, Adrian Barnes has written on the Daily Beast entitled My Cancer is as Strange as my Fiction.

If you are a writer in the North West of Engerland and want to be on it, email me or tweet me @endofallpodcast


Rob Cutforth, Kate Feld and Abi Hynes

Episode 1 – Kate Feld and Abi Hynes

Kate Feld and Abi Hynes (I call her “Abi Faro” in the podcast because that’s what her twitter handle is) are Manchester writers who host the popular Live Literature nights The Real Story and First Draft in Manchester, UK. They talk to Rob about Feminism, Sex, Performance and trying to eke out a living as a writer in the 21st century.

This podcast was recorded on the roof of the Manchester Literature Festival the 17th of October 2015. It’s the first one, so all comments or questions are welcome.

Here, let me get you started:

Question 1: Why does the beginning bit sound like Rob is recording from the inside of a baked bean can?
Answer: Erm… it’s art?

Question 2: Why does Rob sound like an even camper Greg Proops?
Answer: Fuck. You.



Do you want to be in the next podcast? Tweet me @robcutforth

The End of All Things Podcast

Starting in November, The End of All Things will be devoted to podcasting.

I have been quite mean to the six or seven of you who still read this blog by ignoring it completely. You don’t deserve it. We’re really good mates, you and I. Obviously, by “You” I mean “the ether” and by me I mean “My online persona”. Haha, just kidding, I’m not clever enough to maintain an online persona. The crotchety old goat you see writing these actual words is the same one who tortures his wife with angry rants about the awful world that is Great Britain. Jesus H, why do I live here? Just look at it outside.

Basically, I’ve been putting all my funny shit on twitter instead of this blog because I have almost a whole five hundred people reading what I write there where I think my biggest tally here was 146. I totally just made that number up.

Anyway, two things have happened since I spoke to you last… no wait, three.

  1. My book was a terrible failure.
  2. I have joined a proper writing group.
  3. I am, at the age of 40, doing an MA in Creative Writing. “But I thought only cunts did MAs in Creative Writing?” I can hear you say. Well, I can tell you from actual experience, that that it is not the case. I mean some people who do MAs in Creative Writing are cunts but not all. In fact, I’d say the majority are of the non-cunt variety. I will let you decide which one I am.
  4. I have replaced the ability to count with appalling profanity.

So yeah, look forward to a podcast on short fiction, long fiction, creative non-fiction, performance and all other things writery. The first one will include an actual critique of my own writing from some truly mean people and an interview or maybe even two from writers who know what they’re doing.

I have bought a microphone and everything. I promise it won’t suck.

Will Self at the Manchester Literature Festival


Robert Cutforth reports back from the Northern Lights Writers Conference at Sale Waterside, where he has an unsettling encounter with Will Self…

The Northern Lights Writers Conference starts pleasantly enough with writers Joanna Kavenna and Jo Bell discussing the difficulties in extracting money from people who ask us to write something for them. It’s tough out there, new writers, but not impossible. You simply need to lower your expectations, be willing to make an arse of yourself and do the odd bit of lecturing or burger flipping to avoid the breadline. It’s a bitter pill for most prospective writers with JK Rowling-style delusions of glory to swallow, but it is very useful advice and delivered with a “hey, we’re all in it together” kind of spirit that leaves us with a modicum of hope.

And then a man who is clearly undead wafts onto the stage.

I don’t mean the gaunt, altitudinous figure before us is a vampire in the metaphorical sense, no. It took me precisely one second to determine with extreme certainty that this man spends his days sleeping in a coffin and his nights flying above the streets of Whitby looking for living things to eat. Behold, William Woodard Self, the destroyer of worlds.

He begins his talk by asking genre fiction writers to identify themselves. Proud hands go up. Having read some of Self’s fiction beforehand, I suspect it would be unwise to raise my hand despite the fact I’m writing my second novel that just happens to have post-apocalyptic Manchester as its setting. I am right to be suspicious. “I have nothing to say to you,” he says and snaps his fingers. The fools with their hands aloft vanish in puffs of foul smelling smoke.

For the stunned few of us who are left, he has some practical advice: Ostinato Rigore which he says means “constant rigor” but I am pretty sure is some sort of spell. He elaborates. Ostinato Rigore in the writerly sense means to keep busy. Write anything and everything you can, especially when first starting out. He proves his devotion to Ostinato Rigore by regaling us with tales of his early days writing questions for pornographic board games and ghostwriting Ronnie Biggs’ joke book. I laugh and allow a single buttcheek to unclench.


Sensing we are warming to him a bit too much, Self shakes a bat out of his cloak, draws a graph on a whiteboard that illustrates his tumbling sales figures and proclaims the death of the novel as an art form is nigh. I re-clench.

A woman asks him what a young writer is to do if their chosen vocation is indeed on the brink of extinction. “I would look into a different medium,” he says and produces a flawless human femur from his back pocket. With a flick of his wrist, the femur hurtles through the air and finds purchase in her left eye socket with a distinct ker-chunk. Self blows a disinterested raspberry into the microphone as her head rolls down the stairs.

After lunch, he reads a particularly cheery excerpt from his new book, Shark, that centres on a delirious sailor as he floats amongst the wreckage of the USS Indianapolis with his dying comrades. While singing an American folk song, the protagonist unlatches another sailor’s life jacket and watches the boy slowly disappear into the shark-infested deep.

A journalism student accidentally misquotes Self whilst asking a question. Before the last word leaves his lips, Self leaps from the stage and promptly chainsaws the student into bite-sized pieces and stuffs them down his throat one after the other. His jagged Adam’s apple jumps and clicks with each gulp gulp gulp. As he dabs the chunks of bloody student from the corners of his mouth with a silken hanky, he suggests aspiring journalists should perhaps get their facts straight before asking stupid questions.

Trembling and suffering from a debilitating case of Stockholm Syndrome, I approach the man afterward and ask him to autograph my copy of Shark. To break the icy stillness that descends as he scratches his name onto the title page in phlegm, I ask his opinion on MAs in Creative Writing. He has already implied that the genre in which I write is silly and that long form fiction in general is toast, so why not go for the trifecta and have him ravage my academic choices as well?

He arises from his seat, takes me in his arms and twirls me about the room. A tuxedoed string quartet appears from behind the bar, playing The Blue Danube. The floor falls away and everyone but us plummets screaming into a pit of fire. Faster he spins me above the flames, his terrible eyes focussed on something out the window, his terrible mouth tutting my crap waltzing technique. “Come on, man, one two three, one two three…” I am terrified and enraptured in equal measure.

As the fire snuffs out the cellist’s final note, Self dips me. “An MA in Creative Writing is a waste of time,” he says and brings my face so close to his that I expect to feel his hot breath, but there is none. “Stretch yourself by getting a proper degree, like philosophy” and plunges his fangs into my neck.

This one book: IT by Stephen King

IT is a ridiculous book. It’s silly, it’s disgusting, it was written by a drunk and worst of all, it’s a book about a gang of kids who save a town from a scary clown. Well sometimes “It” is a clown. Sometimes It’s a big spider and other times It’s Paul Bunyan or a leper. Did I mention the book is ridiculous? Basically, It shape shifts into the things children are most afraid of and then kills them. Sound familiar? I don’t know if IT (published in 1986) ripped off Nightmare on Elm Street (released 1984), but who cares? If there is one thing we can all agree on, it’s that there can never be enough stories about murdered children, am I right?

If you’ve not read IT, I suppose this is the part where I should warn you of impending spoilers but as you probably have no intention of reading IT anyway, what difference does it make? Besides, most of the spoilery bits are above anyhow. I don’t even feel bad.

“Why is this ridiculous book the one that changed your life?” I hear you not ask. Let me tell you anyway.

Before reading IT at thirteen, I had read precisely three novels: Jacob Two Two meets the Hooded Fang, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (Yes, two books by Mordecai Richler… Canada innit). Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly hooked on reading. In fact, I found the idea of sitting down with a book a fairly tedious activity, especially once the NES came out. Remember how awesome Super Mario 3 was? Why would you read a friggin book when you could play that game instead? Finding your first secret coin room… oh, MAN.

Stephen King changed all that.

Stephen King books are bad. And I don’t mean the writing is shit. Ok, yes, he spends too much time describing scenes and characters that have no bearing on the plot and maybe he does love an adverb or two (despite the surprising diss he gives them in On Writing), and oh I guess it’s true his books are way way way too long, but oh my dear lord, they’re fun to read.

When I say they’re bad, I mean they are properly off-side. Some are a bit racist, women are often battered, dudes are sleeping with their own moms and, of course, the stacks upon stacks of dead kids.

Even now, in these days of overprotective supermoms and paedomania, you can still find Stephen King novels everywhere. Book shops, airports, car boot sales, Oxfam… you name it. I found IT in my school library. In Junior High! I read it on the bus, I read it in the cafeteria, I read it on the couch at home and no one seemed to care. It was so strange. Everyone knew Stephen King books were a bit wrong, but they just seemed happy to see me reading an actual book. A tut here, the odd eye roll there, but that was it, no one said I couldn’t read it despite the grisly murders, the occultish baddies, the domestic abuse or the graphic sex. It was like discovering a socially acceptable porno mag. “Ah, is that porn you’re reading young sir? Good lad. More kids should be like you. Don’t forget to look at the tits!” You know the bit where Stan drags a razor blade lengthwise down both forearms and paints the word “It” on the shower wall in his own blood? I read that bit during church youth group while the pastor was giving a lecture on the evils of heavy metal. It was amazing.

King novels are the crack cocaine of the literary world, and IT is crackiest cocainiest. It has to be to keep you reading a book about a scary clown for well over a thousand pages. As soon as I finished, I immediately withdrew all the Stephen King novels from the library and read them all, then I went to the public library and read all of the ones they had and then when I was finished with those I went to the book store and used my own money to buy some more. Birthdays, Christmases, books had made their way onto my gift lists. I looked forward to reading the books we were assigned in school and English had become my favourite subject. I even found love for Mordecai Richler!

Stephen King is largely responsible for getting a dummy like me to read and even moreso to write. In fact, it wasn’t long after reading IT that I wrote my first story; a bit of flash fiction entitled “Barnyard Bob and his dog named Phil”; a story about a dog who has sex with his degenerate owner in exchange for room and board. It was god awful, but shit it was fun to write.